Why "the South" did not get a railroad to the Pacific

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
8,458
Location
Denver, CO
The subject has been covered in an excellent volume:
Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

David Haward Bain. Penguin Group, New York 1999.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
8,458
Location
Denver, CO
The southern railroads that made money usually had a particular commercial purpose. Southern population density was too low to support many through railroads.
With respect to the TransCRR, the central route would tie into Iowa and Sacramento, both of which did have some railroads with revenue. It would also tie into settlements in CO, UT and NV. On a revenue basis, the central route was more attractive.
The natural route was probably from Kansas City to Golden/Denver and north through Laramie and the Medicine Bow Mtns. So the even the selected route involved a political compromise.
 

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Messages
19,926
Location
Laurinburg NC
This article is full of revisionist lies and even uses Jefferson Davis’s book for a guide.
David john Marrota is a financial and investment planner with no evidence of historical , much less civil war, knowledge. I have no idea who Meagan Russell is , maybe his secretary ?
The article and it’s sources and supporting documents have no validity. It not evident that they did any research but got their information from biased revisionists as fact and with no independent corroboration.
To be short and to the point, I'm pretty sure Southern resentment against unfair tariffs can be explained better by Jefferson Davis and other Southerners of the era than post-1960 revisionists.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

GS

Retired User
Joined
Jan 31, 2017
Messages
2,529
Anyone who has traveled Interstate 10 from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans knows that the Southern route would have been quicker, less expensive, and with less injury-associated deaths. Try crossing the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada into California for comparison.
 

E_just_E

Captain
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Sep 3, 2014
Messages
6,172
Location
Center Valley, PA
Folks, let's keep the discussion back to the original topic, why the railroad to the Pacific did not pass through a Southern route.
Posted as a moderator.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
Messages
1,816
Anyone who has traveled Interstate 10 from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans knows that the Southern route would have been quicker, less expensive, and with less injury-associated deaths. Try crossing the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada into California for comparison.
Welcome to the debate, Gladys. And anyone who has travelled I-10 and seen all the railroad cars with Chinese names on them will find confirmation if the central theme in American history: China!
 
Last edited:

WJC

Major General
Moderator
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Joined
Aug 16, 2015
Messages
12,758
The Border South's far greater willingness to bend northward received another statistical illustration in the House vote on the North's greatest gain: free California. In the evenly divided Senate, northern victory on California had required at least one southern abstention. In the northern-dominated House, no Southerner had to endorse the victors' spoils. Still, 64% of border congressmen voted to admit California as a free state. Only 27% of the Middle South's representatives and 2% of the Lower South's concurred.
Thanks for your response.
That is a possible answer to the question asked in another thread, "California for the Fugitive Slave Law: A Good Choice?"
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Messages
11,877
My mistake, my mind apparently wandered off for a moment. The source below better explains Southern resentment.

"As early as the Revolutionary War, the South primarily produced cotton, rice, sugar, indigo and tobacco. The North purchased these raw materials and turned them into manufactured goods. By 1828, foreign manufactured goods faced high import taxes. Foreign raw materials, however, were free of tariffs.

Thus the domestic manufacturing industries of the North benefited twice, once as the producers enjoying the protection of high manufacturing tariffs and once as consumers with a free raw materials market. The raw materials industries of the South were left to struggle against foreign competition.

Because manufactured goods were not produced in the South, they had to either be imported or shipped down from the North. Either way, a large expense, be it shipping fees or the federal tariff, was added to the price of manufactured goods only for Southerners. Because importation was often cheaper than shipping from the North, the South paid most of the federal tariffs.

Much of the tariff revenue collected from Southern consumers was used to build railroads and canals in the North. Between 1830 and 1850, 30,000 miles of track was laid. At its best, these tracks benefited the North. Much of it had no economic effect at all. Many of the schemes to lay track were simply a way to get government subsidies. Fraud and corruption were rampant.

With most of the tariff revenue collected in the South and then spent in the North, the South rightly felt exploited. At the time, 90% of the federal government’s annual revenue came from these taxes on imports.”

https://www.marottaonmoney.com/protective-tariffs-the-primary-cause-of-the-civil-war/
I have no way of knowing if Mr. Marrotta is a good Wealth Management adviser and I hope that he is. I have no idea what his economic or history background might be. However, this take on tariffs before the Civil War is very unrealistic and ignores a great many things.

In the late 1830s, South Carolina planters were stunned to find that rice grown in Java could be landed on the dock in Charleston and sold for a cheaper price than they were getting for rice shipped down-river from their plantations. South Carolina immediately started agitating for a protective tariff on rice -- and they got one in the Tariff of 1842.

Shipping costs are shipping costs. If you want to buy something made far away, yes, you will be charged for shipping it to you. They will charge you for shipping no matter if it comes from New York or Boston or London.

On "the South paid most of the federal tariffs", the truth is that no one knows how much "the South" did or did not pay in tariffs. There are no records tracking the goods imported to their final destination.

On cotton -- "the South" dominated the world cotton market, producing the most in-demand kind of cotton, and probably supplying 85-90% of the world consumption. Their biggest customer was Britain, which bought a bit over 50% of their crop. The second-biggest customer was "the North" (as in "the rest of the country"), which bought a bit over 40% of the crop. The rest of the world bought a bit over 5%. In the 1840s and 1850s, "the South" had no effective competition in the marketplace.

On railroads, what in the world is this guy talking about? The very first act I recall where the Federal government subsidized RR construction was in 1848: land grants were given for the construction of the Illinois Central (chartered in Illinois) and the Mobile and Ohio (chartered in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee). How is that unfair to "the South"?

"With most of the tariff revenue collected in the South and then spent in the North, the South rightly felt exploited." This is just sheer nonsense. Just over 60% of all Tariff revenue was collected in New York Harbor. Four of the top five cities were north of the Potomac River (Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore). New Orleans was the other, but New Orleans trade went upriver into Minnesota and Ohio as well.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
8,458
Location
Denver, CO
Strange to think that after the US agreed to the addition of Texas, assumed Texas' debt, fought a foreign war to secure the addition, and manned a system of frontier forts in Texas, that the slave society contended it wasn't getting its share. Seems they wanted a bunch of forts, and a few levees, and were not that pumped about railroads until the saw what happened in Illinois.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
8,458
Location
Denver, CO
The southern route was never selected because the most ruthless and effective politician was Stephen A. Douglas and Douglas was going to get some version of the central route.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
Messages
1,816
Strange to think that after the US agreed to the addition of Texas, assumed Texas' debt, fought a foreign war to secure the addition, and manned a system of frontier forts in Texas, that the slave society contended it wasn't getting its share. Seems they wanted a bunch of forts, and a few levees, and were not that pumped about railroads until the saw what happened in Illinois.
Illinois projected the future big time, showing to both the South and the North the enormous --make that "exponential"-- economical and political power that would descend on whichever section got the TRR.

And let us not in this connection forget Abe Lincoln's involvement in Illinois railroads long before the ICC. Ward Hill Lamon tells us about this. I don't recall that Freehling and McPherson do. Remember, too, that Lincoln's real idol was DeWitt Clinton more than Henry Clay. The TRR was Abe's equivalent of "Clinton's Ditch" --a subject, by the way, in vol 1, number 1, of DeBow's Review. Charleston lost first place as a seaport because of "Clinton's Ditch." Charleston forever after determined to beat back NYC. From 1845-1860 SC and the entire South never lost sight of a southern footprint for a New York minute.

James
 
Last edited:

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
Messages
1,816
Strange to think that after the US agreed to the addition of Texas, assumed Texas' debt, fought a foreign war to secure the addition, and manned a system of frontier forts in Texas, that the slave society contended it wasn't getting its share. Seems they wanted a bunch of forts, and a few levees, and were not that pumped about railroads until the saw what happened in Illinois.
And with the Gadsden Purchase the South got a bigger subsidy than the cost of the entire Louisiana Purchase, but all it did was cry "Foul! Foul!" Then they cried, "Secede! Secede!" Which made about as much sense.

James
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Joshism

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,266
Location
Jupiter, FL
Personally, I think they should have gone with the 2 RR plan in the early 1850s and built both the Union Pacific/Central Pacific one that finished in 1869 and the southern route that finished in the 1880s.
Simultaneously building two transcontinental railroads might have been a feel-good solution for the North and South, but it was unreasonable and fiscally irresponsible (and probably fiscally impossible). Even if the agreement was to build one then immediately the other North and South would bickered over who should be first. It didn't matter to most of them which route made the most economic sense or was overall the greatest benefit to the nation (or the people in California). It was just another prize for their team to win.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Waterloo50

Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Messages
4,814
Location
Blighty.
I was just reading an interesting article:
The South and the Pacific Railroad, 1845-1855
by Jere W. Roberson
Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Apr., 1974), pp. 163-186 (24 pages)
https://www.jstor.org/stable/967035?read-now=1&seq=23#page_scan_tab_contents
9JSTOR is a subscription service, but you can read 6 articles/month free if you set up an account)

This covers the various attempts to start a "Southern" Pacific RR route project in 1845-55 and how they failed. Here is the conclusion in the last 2 paragraphs:

View attachment 312638
View attachment 312639

More than anything else, it appears the reason Southerners didn't get the Transcontinental RR route was Southerners. They competed with themselves and did not organize/unify behind a single proposal, they were opposed to any method of support/payment from the Federal government, and they subordinated everything to the slavery issue. By 1855, even Southern supporters of the southern-route Transcontinental RR idea were drifting away from it to concentrate on other things (IOW, slavery-related fights).
I get the impression from reading that article that the main failing of the south was the bickering over which state/city would dominate southern trade and become the terminus, I guess today we’d refer to that as a ‘hub’ for trade. It’s beyond me why the South couldn’t reach a compromise, wouldn’t it have made sense to create the terminus somewhere/anywhere along the Mississippi and share the benefits.
Most countries have to deal with sectionalism but a compromise is normally made for the benefit of all.
I had to chuckle at your comment ‘ it appears the reason Southerners didn't get the Transcontinental RR route was Southerners‘. A rather short but accurate summary if you ask me.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Messages
11,877
Simultaneously building two transcontinental railroads might have been a feel-good solution for the North and South, but it was unreasonable and fiscally irresponsible (and probably fiscally impossible). Even if the agreement was to build one then immediately the other North and South would bickered over who should be first. It didn't matter to most of them which route made the most economic sense or was overall the greatest benefit to the nation (or the people in California). It was just another prize for their team to win.
The government spending for this would come down to land-grants to the RR companies -- earned as they built the track. There really is little financial responsibility for the Federal government.

It would have been years before much of the track was built. In 1853-54, Jefferson Davis had just started sending out the survey teams to find acceptable routes. Since the financing is privately raised (based on the land grants), and Gadsden had set off for Mexico in the Summer of 1853 (the Treaty made it through Congress in 1854), it probably would have been 1856 or later before much was done.

On the Southern route, you might have seen track laid west across Texas toward El Paso. The San Diego end doesn't seem to have the backing in California that San Francisco-Sacramento did, so it might take a long time to get that going.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top